Last October I wrote a piece postulating on the possibility of ever voting for the Conservative Party one day. The conclusion was that, in all probability, this would not happen, because of the unlikelihood of that particular animal being attractive to me. Since then, of course, the party has elected David Cameron as its leader (one of the conditions for me ever being able to stomach them in the first place), who has embarked on a major charm offensive. Recognising that his party has, for many years, made stomachs turn, he has gone to great lengths to re-engineer the entire Tory (even that is now a dirty word) ethos, and drag them to the centre. So much so that he is now going toe-to-toe with Tony Blair in virtually every way.
It’s the summer, so most politicians are meant to be on holiday somewhere, enjoying the enormous break they all receive at this time of year courtesy of us, the generous taxpayers. But not Big Dave. He’s doing the rounds, trying to keep himself in the papers and the public eye. Yesterday he was criticising the government’s efforts at combating Islamic terrorism in the UK. Today, he’s gone to the trouble of revealing a mini-manifesto. Which was nice of him. Let’s go through the key points and see how they measure up to the wish list I put together last year:
“Flatter and simpler” taxes and deregulation for industry
Yes, I have long liked the idea of a flat tax. Simplification of our sprawling and complex tax system, reducing the need for an army of overpaid bureaucrats at the Inland Revenue and closing tax loops exploited by the rich and their clever accountants? Definitely worth investigation.
Reducing means testing for pensioners, paid for by raising the retirement age
A great vote winner for the Tories. After all, most of their base is over sixty. Raising the retirement age is, unfortunately, a requirement for whoever gets in power. The pension deficit isn’t getting any smaller.
A “huge increase” in drug rehabilitation places for young offenders
Part of Cameron’s infamous “hug a hoodie” initiative I suppose. But I agree. Sending drug abusers to prison is like sending gamblers to Las Vegas.
“Binding annual targets” for carbon emissions
Easily said, not easily done. But again, I can’t fault the logic.
Ending the “culture of top down centralisation and targets” in the NHS
Ironic, seeing as his party introduced the idea in the first place, but still…
More “streaming and setting” in schools
Nothing wrong with pushing smarter kids up the ladder. As long as the others aren’t completely given up on of course. Nothing wrong with testing kids either and (gosh) occasionally failing them if they’re not up to standard.
Creating a “unified border police” and a homeland security minister
A New Bill of Rights to replace the Human Rights Act
I like the idea in principle – I’ve always supported constitutional reform and an enshrined Bill of Rights would be a part of that. Getting out of the European Human Rights Act wouldn’t be an easy task though.
Scrapping the government’s proposed ID card scheme and unelected regional assemblies
Definitely scrap the ID card. It will cost billions, go over budget, then cost billions more. It would be cheaper to simply let the benefit fraud that it would supposedly eliminate continue. It wouldn’t make any difference in fighting terrorism. As we’ve seen in the last year, our biggest threat comes from naturalised British citizens.
It has to be said, the blueprint set out here comes closer to matching the sort of liberal policies I would like to see our government represent than anything else I have seen recently. There is nothing here that would offend me. Of course, he’s got to sell the idea to the rest of his party – and there are still some hoary old monsters in there – not to mention their elderly membership, for the transformation to continue. But so far, so good. Big Dave, you’ve got me listening. It will be interesting to see where you go from here. My vote is very much up for grabs, I have little regard for any of the parties these days. If you could just take another look at your party’s name. The Conservatives. I just don’t like it. Would you consider changing it to something more agreeable? The Liberal Party, perhaps? Then you’d really have my attention.